18 Tips for
Cutting Costs Without Laying Off Staff
By James Sturdivant, contributing
editor of Publishing Executive
With the economy officially in recession and sharp
ad-revenue declines affecting magazines of all sizes
and scopes, few magazine publishers have failed to
address cost-cutting strategies and ways to do more
with less. Here are 18 tips from a cross-section of
the publishing world for reining in costs without
sacrificing too much in the way of staff or quality.
Tips From Elinor Fish, managing editor, Big Stone
1. Make use of skilled interns.
“One cost-cutting measure we’ve taken is making good
use of all the eager interns knocking at our door,”
Fish says. “Unlike some big magazines that only use
interns to make coffee and copy edit, we select
interns with enough proven writing experience that
they are able to (with close oversight) write
articles for the magazine.”
The magazines realize big savings in their freelance
budget, and the interns gain valuable experience.
Don’t miss the chance to pick and choose specific
skills when you have a large pool of applicants, she
adds; the company has, for instance, had success
with photography interns.
2. Work with book publishers to obtain free content.
Big Stone has had success sourcing free editorial
content in the form of book excerpts. “Especially
when a book is new to market, a publisher will often
not charge us for the reprint because of the great
publicity it provides for the book,” Fish says.
Tips From Frank Anton, CEO, Hanley Wood.
Hanley Wood is a business-to-business media company
with more than 30 titles serving primarily the
building and construction trades. “The big costs in
publishing are people, printing, paper and postage,”
Anton says. “That’s where you have to look for big
savings, and, alas, people are the biggest expense
by far.” Anton recommends addressing staffing as a
primary way to realize savings, but offers other
cost-saving measures as well.
3. Cut back on travel and marketing.
4. Close office locations to cut real estate
5. Renegotiate vendor contracts.
Tips From Andrew Berman, executive vice president,
The Mortgage Press.
6. Use tools to streamline ad tracking.
The Mortgage Press went from a “Rube Goldberg”
spreadsheet-management process to a more efficient
ad-tracking and workflow-management system (using
Magazine Manager). “We went from entering an ad
seven times to only once,” Berman says. The new
system has also eliminated the problem of late ads,
with attendant time and labor wasted.
7. Automate where practical.
Automatic e-mail reminders and features that allow
clients to upload ads on a regular basis avoid
building time-wasting procedures into the
Tips From Todd Matherne, CEO, Renaissance
8. Cut paper weights.
Renaissance recently changed from 45# to 40#
(interior pages) on all titles, Matherne reports.
“The cost of the paper is less and the tonnage is
less, both in cost of paper and cost of mailing,” he
9. Cut trim sizes.
“We have also [converted] our glossy tabloid
magazine, St. Charles Avenue, from full-size to
magazine-size as of the January 2009 issue,”
10. Do less promotional mailing.
The company has cut significantly the number of
full-issue promotional copies it mails and is
experimenting with cheaper ways to attract
customers. “We are doing a lot more [promotion] on
the Web,” he says, including a planned revamp of all
magazine Web sites to make them better promotional
Tips From Dan Pritchett, vice president, marketing
and business development, Logos Research Systems
11. Shift marketing dollars online.
LRS realized there were budget-conscious
alternatives to inserting promotional business reply
cards in magazines. It shifted some of the money
saved by not having to print, insert and pay postage
on the cards—which Pritchett estimates at several
thousand dollars per issue—to online marketing,
including buying ad space in the e-newsletters of
related organizations and creating a Facebook page.
The results have been dramatic, Pritchett says, with
excellent return on less investment.
12. Better target your print marketing.
For the Bible Study Magazine launch, LRS worked with
an Internet store that sells products to Bible
Study’s target audience to insert ads into packages
shipped to customers. The campaign is far more
targeted than a typical business reply card effort
and less costly than sending complimentary copies,
Tips From Adrian Stanley, CEO, The Charlesworth
13. Understand your market,
and build pricing and business models around it.
Allocate resources where your readers are today, not
where they were one, three or five years ago. This
includes moving judiciously into electronic and
social media, but not sacrificing print where reader
demand and marketing models based in the medium
still create the most return on investment (ROI).
14. Use standard templates for pagination.
Journal publishers like the Nature Publishing Group
and British Medical Association have led the way on
this, Stanley says. Templates and sub-templates can
provide up to 50 article types, especially when
integrated with XML-based workflows, saving you time
and money by automating production.
15. Integrate workflows and technology with other
Charlesworth has automated the client interface
between peer-review systems and online publishing
hosting platforms. Such solutions make client
interaction simple and efficient, Stanley says. “If
you can save someone time, you can probably save
costs in the long run,” he says.
16. Know which part of the workflow a technology
partner is good at,
and avoid duplication of vendor services. Understand
your partner’s strengths and be sure you can trust
them to offer you only those services they do best.
On the other hand, if a job can be done more
efficiently by consolidating several services under
a single vendor at a better price, do it.
17. Reduce the number of pages printed.
When presenting something online is acceptable to
readers, do so.
18. For journals, experiment with author-pay models,
where authors pay to have their work published. In
some circumstances, STM and other publishers have
successfully utilized an open-access/author-pay
model to save money on product launch and editorial
---Source: The Media Minute Jan. 5,
2009 newsletter (www.TheMediaMinute.com).
This article was originally titled 34 Tips for
Cutting Costs Without Laying Off Staff and was
edited for space. James Sturdivant is a contributing
editor of Publishing Executive and his full article
can be retrieved from this Web site (www.pubexec.com).
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